MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Twitter brought good tidings to West Virginia basketball fans late Saturday night—news so good they may want to dig those season-ticket order forms out of the trash after all.
Juwan Staten announced he’s returning for his senior year.
The All-Big 12 point guard, coming off one of the most well-rounded individual seasons in the program’s history, was viewed as a 50/50 candidate to enter the NBA draft. And on the heels of backcourt mate Eron Harris abruptly transferring this week, the additional loss of Staten could have severely dented West Virginia’s hopes of making the NCAA tournament next year.
But just when the Mountaineers’ offseason had turned cloudy, the tireless playmaker Staten tweeted that he’ll put his draft dreams on hold: “Looks like I’ll be spending my senior year at WVU with my main man @CoachHuggs!!!”
Staten, who turns 22 in May just days ahead of receiving his degree in public relations, has already spent four years in college—one of those as a redshirt transfer after coming to WVU from Dayton. After being spotty as a sophomore and clashing with Huggins on occasion, Staten recommitted himself. He wound up leading the Big 12 in scoring (18.1) and minutes (37.2) as a junior, while finishing second in assists (5.8), third in shooting percentage (48.6) and eighth in steals (1.2).
After a season like that, observers wondered how Staten could possibly better his stock. Two areas he’ll try to address: Improving his 3-point shot to match the consistency of his mid-range jumper, and proving he can lead a team to the NCAA tournament for the first time.
As word spread of Staten’s decision to stay in school, he followed up with another tweet:
“The work I’m going to put in this offseason is scary. I want to be a 2015 NBA lottery pick!”
Facing next season without Staten would have been scary for Bob Huggins. Neither of the two combo guards signed from the high school ranks could have been expected to adequately handle the point guard duties, and senior Gary Browne has proven to be better suited to a reserve role.
Thursday’s revelation that West Virginia had offered a scholarship to Independence (Kan.) Community College point guard Tarik Phillip was viewed as another indicator Staten wouldn’t be returning. It bears watching to see whether that offer stands—and it might, because WVU still has a slot available from Harris’ departure. Plus, Huggins might relish having a point guard like Phillip groomed to bridge the gap once Staten and Browne are gone in 2015-16.
But Huggins was living in the now when he tweeted his contentment Saturday night:
“Happy and excited to have the pleasure of coaching @JuwanStaten3 for another year. Looking forward to helping Juwan achieve every goal.”